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The ‘Cuse is on the loose. After missing the NCAA Tournament in three of the previous six seasons, Syracuse University barely made the 2021 field. But Joe Girard III, Buddy Boeheim, and the trusty 2-3 zone defense have brought the Orange to the Sweet 16 of the annual college basketball extravaganza.

Boeheim is getting lots of attention as the son of Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, but his partner at guard at the front of that confounding zone defense is a good story, too.

Syracuse is in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16

Syracuse University made the jump from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013 in large part to secure the future of its football program as the power conferences went through realignments. Year 1 was a smooth transition in men’s basketball as the Orange finished 14-4 in the conference.

Everything since has been more of a struggle, and SU’s conference record the past seven seasons has been a modest 65-61. Three of the last six seasons had ended in Syracuse missing the NCAA Tournament. Beating North Carolina, Clemson, and North Carolina to end the recent regular season gave coach Jim Boeheim’s team hope, but a 72-69 loss in the first round of the conference tournament left the Orange on the bubble.

Syracuse did land an invitation as a No. 11 seed – nearly everyone below was an automatic qualifier from lesser conferences – and then knocked off sixth-seeded San Diego State and third-seeded West Virginia. Buddy Boeheim buried SDSU with seven 3-pointers and 30 points, then scored 25 vs. the Mountaineers. Joe Girard III produced 12 points and seven assists in each of the contests.

Syracuse’s title quest continues against the University of Houston on March 27 in the Sweet 16.

Joe Girard III was a high school prodigy

Joe Girard III arrived at Syracuse University in 2019 from Glens Falls, New York, about 140 miles to the east. Girard, who’ll be a key player this weekend as Syracuse seeks to extend its NCAA Tournament run, was a two-sport star in high school. He led his team to state championships in basketball and football, earning numerous individual honors.

Facing every sort of gimmick defense imaginable, Girard averaged 50 points a game in his junior and senior basketball seasons. His state-record career total of 4,763 points easily eclipsed the New York schoolboy marks of future college basketball and NBA players including Lance Stephenson, Sebastian Telfair, and Kenny Anderson, all of whom are still in the top 10.

Yes, Syracuse guard Joe Girard III dunked on his own mother

Though Tulane University offered Joe Girard III scholarships in football and basketball, the high school star focused his college decision on basketball options with many of the nation’s elite Division I schools.

Girard, whose father played college basketball under John Beilein, ultimately picked Syracuse over Michigan and the others. He was having a decent freshman season, averaging 12.4 points and 3.5 assists before the pandemic shut down the season at the start of the 2020 ACC tournament and canceled the NCAA Tournament.

With the campus all but shut down for the semester, Girard returned to Glens Falls to complete his classes online. With social distancing being emphasized, he spent at least as much time shooting buckets alone in his driveway as he did working out with old teammates.

Boredom and a sense of mischief set in, which brings us to the Twitter video above, where Girard did indeed dunk on his mother.

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